Opaque Pricing outside Priceline
Let's look at Travelocity's Top Secret Hotels.
As with Priceline, you are bidding on an unknown property. If that bid is accepted, you have completed a non-refundable purchase.
There are some differences to consider, starting with inventory. Anyone getting into the opaque pricing business is bound to have fewer hotel rooms to offer than Priceline or Hotwire. Zone bidding will take on a much different feel.
I decided to test-drive Top Secret Hotels. What I found was that the zone offerings were much harder to judge. A "downtown" hotel could actually be a number of miles from the city center with the Travelocity option. Be careful!
Expect to see more variations of the "name your price" theme in the near future. Each newcomer will have a slightly different set of rules, a "hook" designed to set it apart from Priceline, and an increase in services.
Which services? Airfares aside, it's also possible to book a cruise, hotel room and car rental in this manner. Why not railpasses and tour guide services, too? How about travel insurance?
It's a trend that every budget traveler should watch carefully. We'll try to provide links to the newest services, but it will be tough to keep track of them. Some will come and go before anyone takes note of their existence.
Something else to watch carefully: the rules.